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Digital Film - Tools you may Need
There is no film making tool more crucial than a good tripod.
Chose one that is as sturdy and well made as your budget permits.
This is one resource, like your camera, that you will benefit from
each time you make a film and school video report , (we have great
Science Fair and Field Trip videos at Camp Internet).
Two words are more important than all others when looking for a
tripod: fluid head. A fluid head tripod uses a
system of oil and valves that provides the variable resistance you
need to make a good, smooth move, without jerks at the beginning
or end of the move.
Check out the design of the legs on the tripod you select. The legs
will be made either of aluminun or carbon fiber.
Aluminun is most durable for regular use.
Sound is always important. If you can budget a microphone it will
help expand what you can do with your videos.
At Camp Internet we use two kinds of Mics. A wireless mic made by
AZDEN - " Wireless Pro". It provides a transmiter (very small) and
a tiny clip on mic to attach to your main subject. You can even
work with two wireless mics at the same time.
We also use a "boom" mic made by Sennheiser. This mic attaches to
the top of our DV camera and gives really good sound pick up in
a small room or outside.
Both mics require batteries, as does the DV camera. That means one
other really important tool for good digital film making is "energy".
You batteries and how you manage them can make the difference between
a successful video session and one that does not work.
We use a set of three batteries - one super large one that will
run for 3 hours and two batteries which will run for 1/2 hour each.
Along with the batteries we use the electrical connection provided
with the camera when we are editing tape on the computer.
wide-angle lens or adapter. I still wonder why manufacturers keep
making their lenses longer, narrower, and less useful, when the
best way to make a shooter love a lens is to make it wide enough
to record what's happening in the same room as the camera.
Lenses aren't cheap, and neither is getting a lens fixed. The cheapest
insurance you can get for a lens is a glass ultraviolet (UV) filter,
which you leave on the lens at all times, lest a scratch sully the
front element of your expensive lens. A UV filter should be less
than $30-a necessary accessory that doesn't break the bank.
Speaking of breaking, the quickest way to break your camera is to
toss it in and out of cars without a good soft case around it. Kangaroo,
Kata, and Porta-Brace make excellent video camera bags that cost
$150 to $350, but there are many al ternatives. For example, I keep
my big cameras in expensive bags, but I haul my Canon Elura around
in a Case Logic bag I got for $25. And if you want to be inconspicuous,
there are good alternatives to the high-priced bags. On a recent
trip to Africa, I outfitted teachers with Canon GL1 cameras and
bike-messenger bags to carry them in. Backpacks can also be modified
to make a useful camera-carrying solution. In any event, you must
have something. How much you want to pay depends on your budget,
protection, and convenience needs.
This is just some of what Johnson takes with him on location. The
$8 purple collapsable rolling tote makes hauling all his gear less
of a burden.
Beyond the essentials, a couple of other items will make your camera-operating
life easier. I mentioned the UV filter before. As Dave Kapoor details
in "Filters for Digital Cameras," several other filters can make
a positive difference in your video. If you shoot outdoors a lot,
a circular polarizing filter can work several types of magic, including
diminishing unwanted reflections, allowing the camera to see underwater
and making the sky an unbelievably gorgeous shade of blue. Diffusion
filters adjust both the contrast and softness of your shot. And,
finally, if your camera or lens isn't equipped with a neutral density
filter, you will have to carry one or two with you to help reduce
the light and depth of field in overbright situations.
In a perfect world, it never rains on our shoots. Well, it isn't
a perfect world. You can use a garbage bag if you like, but that
has the disadvantages of being unsuitable for the job, looking truly
unprofessional, and falling apart in a few minutes. Spend $100 to
$300 to get a camera raincoat made specifically for your model camera.
Kata and Porta-Brace are two brands to look for.
If you don't own some sort of multitool by now, I wonder how you
get through the day. Although the Leatherman is widely renown as
the original, there are dozens on the market now, each with a dazzling
array of features to make life on the road easier. Look for one
with a good Phillips-head screwdriver and the ability to lock the
tool in place; some of the knives are sharp enough to draw blood
just by looking at them. A decent multitool will cost about $50.
You'll notice I haven't mentioned lighting yet. That's the problem
with a list like this: You end up trading need for cost, and a good
light kit is not cheap. You can easily spend $2000 on a small kit.
It's true that I wrote an article on how to light with stuff from
a hardware store (Apr. '01 DV), and I stand by that article. But
sometimes you must have the real thing. There are several brands
to consider when you go shopping.
If at all possible, get a soft box for that light kit. Chimera,
Lowel, Photoflex, and others make good soft boxes. Your light kit
should also include several good, heavy-gauge extension cords; a
bunch of wooden clothespins; several types of diffusion, scrims,
and gels; leather gloves, and heavy-gauge aluminum foil for making
irregular additions to barn doors and creating a quick reflector
in the field.
Finally, I would be remiss if I failed to mention the accessory
you hope you never use: insurance. This can be tricky. If you use
your gear in a professional capacity, your homeowner's insurance
usually will not cover equipment theft.
Specialized insurance coverage is available through many sources.
One plan worth checking out is the program offered through WEVA,
the Wedding and Event Videographers Association (www.weva.org).
Also take your insurance agent out to lunch and see what she or
he has to offer. Skimping on insurance can chew up any profits and
can end up costing much more than any of this gear.
Some small but essential accessories include a multitool, hand mic,
Sharpie, tie wraps, and white-balance card.
Camp Internet video equipment list: Fluid-head tripod
Three camera batteries
XLR audio inputs or adapter
Short shotgun mic
Two lav mics
Several mic cables
Wide-angle lens or adapter
Circular polarizing filter
Light kit with soft box